Call it a learning experience for Minnehaha Academy.
The talented but young Redhawks went fast break for fast break with a veteran Sauk Centre team for 34 minutes on Wednesday in the Class 2A quarterfinals at Mariucci Arena. The problem was that games are 36 minutes long, and a two-minute stretch of sloppiness that led to the Redhawks' downfall and a 74-65 victory for the No. 2-seeded Mainstreeters.
Sauk Centre's cadre of juniors and seniors are cut from the same mold. They're fast, athletic and stand between 5-6 and 5-8. The Mainstreeters play a relentless, run-and-fun style, with emphasis on the fun. It's a fearless group.
"That's just the kind of team we have," said senior Jill Klaphake, who finished with 20 points. "We have great team chemistry and we just make it so fun."
Minnehaha Academy's youthful lineup — one senior plays sparingly — stayed with the up-tempo Mainstreeters for the first half and much of the second. But the two-minute loss of focus resulted in five turnovers in a span of six possessions. Sauk Centre took advantage, turning a 52-48 deficit into a 60-52 lead it never relinquished.
"Our girls got tired," Minnehaha Academy coach Josh Thurow said. "You could see we were dragging a little bit. We just didn't have any gas left in the tank at times."
Sauk Centre is appearing in its seventh state tournament, which junior guard Kelsey Peschel said worked to its advantage. "Every year we come back here, the nerves go down a little bit," she said. "We try to get them run down in the first half and, because we have more energy, we get them in the second half."
New London-Spicer 48, Esko 43: As a basketball venue, Mariucci Arena takes some getting used to, with its cavernous background, echo-chamber acoustics and distance between the court and the fans.
New London-Spicer adapted a little quicker than Esko, taking a quick seven-point lead, then holding off the Eskomos. Guard Shea Oman scored 16 points and forward Kabrie Weber added eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Wildcats.
"It's loud in there and it's crazy," Oman said. "It's different because there's so much open space on the ends, but I like it."
Esko (24-7) took nearly five minutes before getting its first basket. By that time, New London-Spicer (27-3) led 7-0, a lead that was threatened twice but never relinquished. Wildcats coach Mike Dreier, the winningest girls' basketball coach in state history, was impressed by his team's response to Esko's runs.
"These girls seem to react to pressure situations very well," he said. "We had several situations today where we built up a pretty decent lead and it didn't last very long. But we were able to toughen up and build it up again."
The key, Oman said, was not getting caught up in the ebbs and flows of the game.
"Every team here is good," she said. "They're going to make shots, and stuff is going to go their way. We just had to keep doing what we're doing."
Roseau 82, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva 64: Roseau coach Kelsey Didrikson says it's defense that usually gets the Rams running.
"We are not patient on offense," said Didrikson. "In our half-court offense we force things. It's our defense that gets us going."
A suffocating defense sparked the Rams to the Class 2A quarterfinal victory over the Panthers at Mariucci Arena.
The Rams (30-0) trailed 25-21 with 7:14 left in the first half before their defense took over. Led by Kiley and Kacey Borowicz, the Rams went on a 20-2 run to open a 41-27 lead. Kiley Borowicz had four steals and Kacey Borowicz had three to fuel the run.
The Rams, who led 43-34 at halftime, started the second half with a 28-9 run to open a 71-43 lead with nine minutes left. The Panthers (25-6) used an 18-4 run to pull within 75-61 with 4:45 remaining but couldn't get any closer.
The Rams finished with 26 steals as they forced the Panthers into 34 turnovers.
Kiley Borowicz finished with a quadruple-double of 28 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. Kacie Borowicz scored 22 points and Victoria Johnson contributed 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Rams.
Betsy Schoenrock had 20 points and 16 rebounds and Marnie Wagner added 16 points for the Panthers.
Watertown-Mayer 71, Rochester Lourdes 58: Claire Killian admitted that she was disappointed with her play in the first half of the Royals' quarterfinal game against the Eagles. So the senior guard, helped by a little self-talk, took it upon herself to step up her play after halftime and scored 19 of her 22 points to lift Watertown-Mayer to a victory.
Killian had nearly as many fouls, two, as she did points in the first half, a fact that weighed on her.
"When halftime came around, I changed my mind-set," Killian said. "I told myself I have to do what I'm capable of doing."
The Royals (27-3) trailed Lourdes 41-34 early in the second half when Killian supplied the game's biggest sequence. She hit consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead to 41-40 and spark a 21-5 run that turned a seven-point deficit into a nine-point lead.